By Taylor Soppe
We're used to crowds encroaching on our space, but a new obstacle has cropped up in Santa Cruz – and an unlikely one at that: sea lion pups. After falling ill for still-unknown reasons, the Pinniped population has taken over the cliffs of Steamer Lane that surfers frequently use as jump-off points. In an interview with KSBW, surfer Guillermo Yanez said, "We just jump from whatever part of cliff we can, to try and not disturb the sea lions."
Although the reasons remain unclear, these marine mammals have had to move further inland to find food and shelter. Scientists speculate that a coming El Nino weather pattern could have caused the sea lion population to become sick, as upwelling could make nutrients harder to find. Others wonder if the record number of pups born last year on the Channel Islands might explain the diminished population.
Though marine sanctuaries are trying to help as many sick and hungry sea lions as possible, many feel overwhelmed by the crisis and can't keep up so surfers are learning to co-exist with the creatures. "(We) respect them because it is their ocean,” said surfer John Hunter in an article from KSBW. “Hopefully, they get better and clear and as the season changes and it gets better for them and surfers.”
Check out these links for more information on the sick sea lions: